7 ideas for what to do when your client wants a crappy webinar

You want to rock the presentation, but then you’re asked to do something that rubs you the wrong way. Now what?

A little backstory:

I confess to a moment of frustration when I made a simple Facebook post: “If your idea of “webinars” is “talk over slides,” please reconsider.” The Facebook response I received told me I was not alone.

Then Ron posed a great query:

“Sadly I have two new clients that think that for ALL their webinars. They hired me to be a content provider. Any suggestions on how to get them to the 21st century?”

So, for Ron and many others, here are a few thoughts in no particular order:

Assume they don’t know any better

There’s a big chunk of the world who has “Uncle Joe Syndrome” when it comes to webinars. By analogy, Uncle Joe knows how to play golf and I don’t. I learn to play golf from Uncle Joe, not realizing Uncle Joe’s a hack. So I learn to hack, too.

The best work with web conferencing isn’t happening in public marketing webinars, it’s happening behind closed doors in learning and development organizations. Ironically, this news travels slowly.

The lesson: Just because you’ve seen it done in other webinars doesn’t mean it’s a best practice.

Use in-person analogies

Assuming the guest host is open to ideas, I like using in-person analogies to illuminate the conversation. “You know how when presenters <fill in the blank>? I’d like to do something like that with your audience to make the session more engaging. How can you help me pull that off?”

The lesson: start with a known, accepted paradigm as a point of reference.

Remember, production people are often pain-avoiders

I once had someone tell me they pre-record presenters because they’ve had a problem with “presenters wandering off topic.” I was a little snarky with my response, “So hire presenters professional enough to do their job.”

Why do producers/virtual meeting planners want your slides days or weeks in advance? Why do they want to avoid showing that video clip you want to show? Why do they not want to help you facilitate live audio Q&A? Why do they <fill in the blank>? To avoid something going wrong.

To be fair, producers do see stupid presenters who don’t practice or other unprofessional things, and often their safeguards come from legitimate experience.

Generally, though, they’re thinking about how to pull something off without errors and uncomfortable dancing instead of how to push the boundaries to pull off a distinctive, memorable event.

The lesson: use your kid gloves. 

Ask the producer what’s more important, engaging the live audience or making a perfect recording?

Use the music industry as an analogy: many of the things that make a live concert awesome would make for a lousy recording.

Dynamic live presentations, online or onsite, are almost always tailored to the audience. Often they bring the audience into the experience. They involve interaction not only with the presenter, but peer-to-peer interaction as well.

None of those things happen in recordings (which, in fact, are videos). In fact, most of the time optimal recordings would probably be shorter and more to the point. It’s a different context.

Does your client want your presentation to be, essentially, a recording? (If so, see the next point)

The lesson: optimization drives valuation.

If the producer wants a great recording, ask why you’re doing it live

A live webinar has a higher cost to the attendees — they have to show up at a particular time, even if no money is changing hands, instead of getting something when they want it. This isn’t a right or wrong issue — there’s a time to have live interaction and dialogue and a time to maximize your reach.

The lesson: doing both at the same time compromises the quality of one or both.

You could refuse the gig

That aforementioned gig where I was told they wanted to pre-record me? I took a stand. I get paid (and well) to help people totally rock live virtual presentations, and I couldn’t in good conscience take the client’s money but be unfaithful to demonstrating the best performance I could model. Fortunately they relented.

This has happened more than once to me (in different contexts), and fortunately they wanted me there more than they wanted to stick to their own “rules.”

The lesson: some hills are to die for. Know yours.

Some will, some won’t, so what, next!

The lesson: you can’t help the unwilling. Move on.

The bottom line

As a professional who speaks, trains, or is otherwise putting it out there, nearly every client interaction involves some form of tradeoff between ideal and real, between what I’m willing to compromise to get paid and when I’m going to walk away (employees make the same tradeoffs).

There’s no magic bullet, but two things are great guides: knowing what you will not compromise and always treating people with the love and respect they deserve.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.